What started as a savings and credit society three years ago plans to become the first women’s bank in Nyanza.
The 10,000-member Homa Bay County Women’s Sacco is the brainchild of Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, who plans to convert it into a bank.
Last year, the sacco entered into a partnership with the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF), which granted it Sh4 million. In February this year, NGAAF granted the sacco Sh1.5 million.
The funds are mostly for women-specific products such as affirmative loans, and also for institutional support. The sacco is currently pursuing a partnership with the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF). Should the sacco seal the deal with WEF, it would come closer to its long-term goal of metamorphosing into the first women’s bank in Nyanza.
“The sacco is being considered to function as a channel for the Women Enterprise Fund in Homa Bay after rigorous scrutiny of our systems,” Ms Wanga, who is the sacco’s patron, said.
She added that having women-specific banks was the next frontier for the economic empowerment of women, as this would help them enter the formal financial system.
She said helping women open bank accounts would reduce poverty and boost economic development.
“Access to savings accounts will allow women to protect their families and businesses from unexpected risks. I owe Homa Bay and Nyanza women this,” said Wanga.
Although the MP acknowledged that converting the sacco into a bank was a huge gamble, she said she believed it would pay off.
“When it comes to women’s economic empowerment, many politicians would rather touch and go. One harambee here, some donations to women groups there... Very few politicians have dared to begin sustainable initiatives such as saccos due to their sensitive nature and potential risk of failure, which directly impacts political careers,” Wanga said.
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She added that despite challenges, the sacco was largely a success.
The Homa Bay County Women’s Sacco is currently the biggest cooperative movement in South Nyanza and one of the largest in the western Kenya region. Membership stood at more than 10,000 as at March 2018, up from 8,369 in 2016 and 4,745 in 2015.
Its capital base, almost entirely from members’ deposits, stood at Sh44 million by December 31, 2017, up from Sh34 million in December 2016 and Sh10,134,065 in December 2015.
In 2016, the sacco was voted the cooperative organisation with the highest membership in Homa Bay County.
In 2017, it advanced a total of Sh38 million in loans to members. Since its inception, the sacco has given out Sh88.6 million in loans. It plans to have at least 13,000 members by the end of the year.